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Blame for overpopulation of degrees lays on colleges

Last week, I wrote college degrees are becoming so normal nearly half of all college graduates are underemployed.

Jane Shaw writes in the Wall Street Journal that institutions of higher learning may in fact be doing more harm than good. For example:

Gov. (Pat) McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, said he is concerned that many college graduates can’t get decent jobs. The problem, he suggested, might be that many academic disciplines have no real practical applications.

The hundreds, if not thousands, of degree types have helped create the underemployment scene. Too many graduates are earning degrees in fields that don’t often see high level of employment. Gov. McCrory argues degrees should be geared towards more real world applications. Swift continues:

The truth is: Elite universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, are doing a disservice when they lead students into majors with few, if any, job prospects. Stating such truths doesn’t mean you’re antagonistic to the liberal arts.

I graduated with one of those liberal arts degrees back in 2000. Luckily, I’ve been able to hold employment in an occupation directly related to my bachelor’s degree, but so many of my college classmates with degrees in communications and film have never held jobs in the fields they studied. Some changed their minds and their interests but others couldn’t find employment and were forced to pursue other careers.

The lack of jobs could only be part of the problem though.

Many liberal-arts graduates, even from the best schools, aren’t getting jobs in large part because they didn’t learn much in school. They can’t write or speak well or intelligently analyze what they read.
The National Association of Educational Progress indicates that literary proficiency among adults with “some” college is declining. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of the 2011 book “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses,” found that 36% of college students made no discernible progress in the ability to think and analyze critically after four years in school.

Let that sink in for a minute. College students are going into debt, spending thousands of dollars in the hopes an advanced degree will help them earn more money as adults. But while spending all this money, many aren’t improving on the skills that would help them land a job in the first place. If so many are learning nothing, why do we push them all into college? In conclusion Swift writes:

U.S. colleges and universities aren’t “uniquely superb,” nor should they be immune from criticism. This is the time for humility and introspection, not circling the wagons.

She’s right. The responsibility to teach lies with the universities. They have to be held accountable. If not, accept the fact that American students, college graduates included, are just mediocre.

Listen Thursday between 9 a.m. and noon to the Bruce St. James Show as Bruce, Pamela and I discuss this in further detail.